Roland Barthes (we couldn’t pronounce it at first either, don’t worry) was a famous French sociologist whose writings have been hailed as some of the most groundbreaking critiques of the cultural ‘mythologies’ created by our societies. Our translation: Roland was a professional thinker whose raison d’être was calling people’s bullsh*t. Think an intellectual terminator, but without the biceps and jawline. We like Roland because he liked wine, and spent a lot of time thinking and writing about it. (He also devoted an entire chapter of a book to philosophizing about steak frites, which is beside the point but also very awesome. Extra points for you, Roland.)
Roland thought that wine is wrapped up in a whole lot of cultural ‘mythology’ or ‘pretentious bullsh*t.’ Sadly, we agree. These days, the uninitiated young drinker may think of wine as a highfalutin artifact. Wine can remind people of their grandparents (in a bad way) or conjure up images of bespectacled snobs claiming they pick up a hint of marigold dust every third sip. But Barthes must have read our manifesto (no matter that he died decades before it was written) because he too was committed to disentangling our beloved juice from all the nonsense. In fact, Barthes believed that wine had a strong “philosophical power to transmute and create…” Sounds pretty great, right?
Using a longer and much cooler set of words than us, Roland said what we’ve been saying for a while now too: wine is for everyone, it is universal. It is for any situation or mood, it is an invitation to go on an adventure of our own choosing and to find in each bottle something we’re looking for, whether we know it or not. It is a vehicle for our stories and elation and desires and needs, a chance for spiritual and gustatory fulfillment. He wrote that “Wine has at its disposal apparently plastic powers: it can serve as an alibi to dreams as well as reality, depending on the user…” Barthes may have been French, but he spoke our language.
“Wine” he goes on, “gives thus a foundation for a collective morality, within which everything is redeemed: truth, excesses, misfortunes and crimes are possible with wine, but never viciousness, treachery or baseness… Wine exalts all climates… in cold weather it is associated with all the myths of becoming warm, and at the height of summer, with all the images of shade, with all things cool and sparkling.” It is “a converting substance capable of reversing situations and states…making a weak man strong or a silent one talkative.” He doesn’t specifically mention that it’s delicious, but we think it’s pretty strongly implied.
Finally, he really hit the nail on the head when he wrote that “there is no situation…which does not give rise to dreams of wine.” Thanks Roland, for reminding us that wine is for all of us, and that each sip is part of an adventure of our own choosing and creation. Someone had to do it, besides us.
Next chance we get, we’re going to pour out some Cab Franc for Roland. We hope you’ll do the same for the man who was taking wine back (in his own unique way) since 1957.
À votre santé, Roland.